You might have noticed that this blog has been a little bit all over the shop recently. Some of the regular features have gone on pause, I’m behind on everything and the posts have been sporadic at best, not to mention how little time I’ve been spending on all of your blogs. The fact of the matter is that I’ve barely been in London over the last two weeks, which has kind of thrown my schedule off track. The good/bad news is that I have now run out of vacation days before Christmas so I’ll be around a lot more and I’m committed to catch everything all up over the next week including my long overdue Shitfest acceptance post, but first I wanted to tell you about a trip I took with my family.
Having not grown up in the UK, I never went to Centre Parcs as a child but apparently this “holiday camp” is an absolute family staple so when Mrs O Senior suggested that we spend a long weekend, I was right up for it.
There are five Centre Parcs locations throughout the UK. We visited Centre Parcs, Elveden Forest. The park has two “sessions” per week. You can either arrive on Friday and leave on Monday or arrive on Monday and leave on Friday. Mondays and Fridays are cross over days, which are the only days cars are allowed out of the car park. Basically you drive down to your chalet, drop off your things, park in the car park and don’t see your car again until the day your leave. After that the best way to get around is by bike. The park is definitely walkable but it’s quite big and if you want to get around quickly cycling is much easier and with no cars it’s pretty safe. You can either bring your own bike or hire one for the whole weekend for only £20. If, like me, you’re a bit useless can’t ride a bike it’s not the end of the world since they have a range of speciality bikes including adult tricycles and a variety of kid friendly ones.
Check me out
We hired a two bedroom chalet, which was bright, airy and had all the mod cons you’d hope for. It’s clearly set up for mum and dad and two kids since Paul and my room had two single beds in it but it was quite fun sneaking in and out of each other’s beds. We also had a lovely view of the lake and the collection of bonkers bird life that occupy it. The ducks, geese and swans in Elveden Forest have clearly figured out that there are friendly humans with lots of tasty food hanging out in the chalets and they’re not averse to coming and pecking on the glass doors.
The activities you can do around the park are staggering from water sports (get your mind out of the gutter, IPC readers), to cake decorating, dance classes, tree climbing, paintball and everything in between. You can book either in advance or while you are there. Some activities are definitely more popular than others so it’s probably worth having a look online for what you want to do and book anything you’re especially keen on. The cost of the activities varies but everything is relatively reasonable.
We spent most of our first day settling in before attacking the water park with vigour. I am a really water baby and I cannot get enough of water slides, wave pools, jacuzzis or anything of that ilk. The Elveden Forest water park is inside a dome, which means its perfectly temperature controlled and usable no matter what the weather. It has an impressive range of fun pools and rides for all ages but nothing tops the Cyclone. To be honest when Mr O and I lined up for the Cyclone we had no idea what it was, we just figured with that long a queue it must be good. It ended up being totally crazy. Basically between two and four of you get into a clover-shaped rubber ring and then disappear down a tunnel which sees you take a 45 degree drop before entering a massive chamber where you are flung from side to side, almost tipping out. It is awesome. We probably went on it about forty times over the weekend. The best thing about the water park is that it’s totally free.
In the evening we had dinner at Bella Italia. The park has a number of restaurants mostly concentrated around a central plaza but chalets are also fully equipped for self-catering and braais (BBQs). We followed it up with tenpin bowling, which I was utterly horrible at, however I improved the more I drank.
Bad, bad bowler
On day two we were up early to play badminton, which I was even more horrible at than bowling. Seriously, I think I managed to hit the shuttlecock about twice. Both Mr O’s were pretty good though and it was a fun way to spend 45 minutes.
After that both Mr O’s and I had planned to do an “aerial adventure”, which involves climbing through the treetops of Elveden Forest, battling a number of obstacles before finally ziplining across the lake. I am pretty scared of heights so I saw it as a way to try and conquer my fears, especially since a bunch of ten year olds seemed to be tripping along with zero apprehension. Unfortunately I never got to find out since they wouldn’t let me participate unless I took out my nose ring and since it’s a spring-loaded ring held shut with a ball that requires a piercer with a pair of pliers to extract. It wasn’t happening. We got a refund but I was really disappointed and unable to see any real health and safety risk that it would have caused. The Mr O’s had a fantastic time though.
In the afternoon Mrs O senior and I did a Bollywood dancing class where we learned a routine over the space of an hour. It was fun, challenging and got us good and sweaty. You can also do Zumba classes.
On our last day we started with some more badminton, followed by archery, which I absolutely loved despite managing to keep catching the bowstring on my forearm. Apparently if you end up with a mark from this it’s called a warrior bruise. I feel like with some practise I could actually become alright at archery. Another step towards my plan to basically be in Game of Thrones.
The afternoon was a real challenge for me though. Mrs O senior had signed up for a Segway challenge, which she didn’t feel up to and so she suggested that I join the Mr O’s and do it in her place. For those who do not know what a Segway is, it’s one of those electric vehicles which has two big wheels and a platform you stand on where you steer with a long stick. Like this. I found mine an absolute nightmare to operate. It has no off switch so the only way you can make it stop is by standing absolutely upright and dead still, otherwise you will find yourself teetering forward or back and if you don’t hold the steering stick dead straight you will find yourself turning in a circle. Everyone else seemed to find this an absolute doddle but I was all over a shop and throughout the tour we did of the park both on and off-road I was petrified. The Mr O’s had a great time but if I never see another Segway again in my life I will not feel sad.
I then convinced everyone to go down to the lake for some boating. We hired a katakanu, which is halfway between a catamaran and a canoe. I had a great time but the whole experience was a bit fraught since we were all a bit rubbish at paddling and we had possibly arranged the level of strength within the boat badly. Next time more practicing.
We finished up the day with a braai and quiz over at Paul’s brother’s chalet. He was spending the weekend with his friends at the same time. It was so much fun.
When we had to leave the next morning I was really quite sad. It was just about the right level of nature for me, it was fun tearing around the park on my trike and the activities and water park were brilliant. Although we were a group of adults, I can imagine it must be wonderful to bring children for a holiday and all the little people we saw seemed to be having the best time ever. If you’re looking for a UK staycation, I would highly recommend a Centre Parcs trip!